Ghostmaker is the second of Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghost novels, and sees the return on the infamous Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt – commanding officer of the Tanith First and Only, also known as Gaunt’s Ghosts, who were introduced in First and Only. The novel returns us to the Sabbat Worlds Crusade and drops us on the chaos infested world of Monthax. Gaunt and the Ghosts are dug in, awaiting orders to assault the enemy and as Gaunt moves through the trenches checking on his men we’re provided with a series of flashbacks that expand what we know about the founding of the Tanith First and the key members of the regiment – a cast of renegade underdog characters that you’ll quickly find yourself rooting for. When the orders to attack come in the Ghosts soon find that there’s more to Monthax than meets the eye and they must overcome both the enemy and their own minds to seize victory in the God Emperors name.
Abnett uses this book to provide us with background knowledge of the Ghosts; old battles, expanded backstories and character development all come in heaps. He also interweaves a more standard narrative throughout, which does dampen the feeling of this being a collection of short stories, though not entirely. The result feels a bit mixed; the wider narrative feels like an add-on to the flashbacks, which makes it a bit harder to follow and to get invested in. Meanwhile the flashbacks themselves get slightly blurred by the ‘main’ story and don’t shine quite as much as they could have.
It’s still a solid read and, as mentioned, does a lot for developing the characters that are ultimately very loveable and easy to become emotionally invested in. There’s a lot of quality in the shorter stories, with some gems that help to cement your respect and admiration for the Ghosts, and provide some details of their characters that give context to actions you’ll read about in future novels. But that said, I think there’s fair argument that a novel of Gaunt prepping his men as they wait in the trenches, flashing back to the memories they share, would have been fine standing on its own, with the Monthax assault being expanded into a separate tale.
All in all I’d say this is a good addition to the Gaunt’s Ghosts series and provides value with a more in-depth introduction that we probably missed out on in First and Only, but it’s not the most engaging of the Ghost novels, and other more standard novels have better readability.
We rate Ghostmaker:
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